Writing an Employee Handbook: The Must-Haves

An employee handbook is an essential document for many businesses.

As an employer, there are several advantages to having an Employee Handbook. Privately-held businesses many times do not have the ability to maintain a full-time personnel manager or human relations staff. A well-drafted Handbook provides employers and employees with a well-thought out policy document. Specifically, a well-drafted Handbook can:

The length, tone, style, and contents of your employee handbook are largely up to you to decide. Just make sure these must-haves are included:

  • Provisions Required by Law – Depending on the type of business you run, various federal, state, and local employment laws may require you to print specific information in your employee handbook. This information relates to family medical leave, equal employment, and worker’s compensation. An attorney can identify the exact provisions you need to include.
  • Contract Distinction – There are legal consequences if an employee handbook is misunderstood to be a contract. Specific language should be included specifying that a handbook is not a guarantee of employment for any specified period of time. Inclusion of this language helps to eliminate many disputes over termination.
  • Policy Priority – The handbook must contain language identifying it as the final reference for all employee policies and procedures. In the event of a dispute, an employer must be able to demonstrate that specific policies were violated. If there is confusion over exactly what policies take precedent, the employer’s argument becomes much weaker.
  • Employee Acknowledgment – The end of all employee handbooks should include a page requiring the employee’s signature to acknowledging they have read and understood the handbook. That document should then be stored in each employee’s file. A perfectly composed employee handbook is worthless unless employers can prove it’s being distributed to employees.

These are not the only details that should be included in an employee handbook, but they are the details that have the biggest consequences if excluded. An employer will have a very difficult time mounting a defense if the employee handbook does not include these provisions.

If you are operating without an employee handbook or with one that has not been reviewed and updated in years, it’s time to shift your priorities. An employment law attorney from Scholemer Law Firm, S.C., can help you determine if you need a handbook, and — if so, determine exactly what needs to be included to safeguard you and your business. Contact our Firm to help you create the soundest employee handbook possible.